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Police false alarm program working

BY KEITH LACEY klacey@northernlife.ca Only three years ago, 12 percent of calls Greater Sudbury Police officers were responding to were false alarms.
BY KEITH LACEY

Only three years ago, 12 percent of calls Greater Sudbury Police officers were responding to were false alarms. The police service decided to try to change that with a false alarm reduction program and fines in the spring of 2002.

Three years later, the program has significantly reduced the number of false alarms by almost 60 percent, said Insp. Susan Evans.

Evans told members of the Greater Sudbury Police Services Board Monday evening the program has proven to be a huge success, not only dramatically
reducing the number of false alarm calls, but allowing officers to remain on the street to do their jobs.

In 2002 alone, the police service received more than 6,000 alarm calls and more than 4,600 of them were for false alarms, she said.

The program requires residential property owners to pay a $30 alarm registration fee, and owners of commercial premises over 3,000 square feet to pay $50. Registration is in place for three years and the property owner must renew the registration after that.

Each premises is allowed one free false alarm each year of the registration. A registered owner is fined $60 for each false alarm after that. A non-registered owner is fined $100 with no freebie allowed.

Arguments that the police were instituting the program as a cash grab are also unfounded, she said.

In 2003, fees for businesses that had to adhere to the bylaw raised more than $34,000 in revenue and fees for service by police having to attend calls was more than $54,000.

So far in 2005, fees for registration to the program have raised more than $10,000 and fees for service has raised about $24,000.

From Aug. 1, 2002 until the first week of September this year, the false alarm reduction program has generated $315,000 in registration fees and fees for service, said Evans.

The program is having a beneficial impact in greatly reducing the number of alarm calls officers have to respond to and resulting in improved service in other areas of complaint and less tax dollars being wasted on unnecessary requests for police service, said Evans.

A total of 3,200 renewals for those involved in the program will be sent out next April.